Rowan Williams and Richard Dawkins oppose lifting faith schools cap

Changing admissions rules for new faith schools would be ‘divisive’ say Rowan Williams, Richard Dawkins and over 60 other signatories to a letter to the Daily Telegraph.

Williams is the former Archbishop of Canterbury and Dawkins is an English ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author.

The letter attacks a policy that would allow the Catholic Church to open new schools.

The signatories say it is “difficult to bring to mind a more divisive policy, or more deleterious to social cohesion” than removing an admissions cap that prevents new faith schools from selecting over half their intake from their own religion.

Williams, Dawkins et al. say removing the cap would allow schools to “label children at the start of their lives with certain beliefs and then divide them up on that basis.”

As it stands, the cap prevents the Catholic Church from opening new schools.

This is because, once they reach the 50 per cent limit, they would have to turn away students because of their Catholic faith.

The government has committed to lifting the 50 per cent cap in order to encourage faith groups to open new schools.

It says it is “unfair and ineffective” and acknowledges that it prevents the Catholic Church from opening new schools.

Paul Barber from the Catholic Education Service would like the cap to be removed.

He says “We’ve had Catholic schools from the middle of the 19th century and they’ve proved to be a huge force for social integration and social mobility.

“The fairness [of giving Catholic students preference] is about trying to respond to parental choice. Our schools are there for those parents who want their children to have a Catholic education and that includes Catholic parents and others.”

He also says while it gives Catholic students priority, it doesn’t exclude others.

In November 2017, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales launched a petition calling on the government to keep its promise.

The petition said “By forcing Catholic schools to turn away Catholic school children on the basis of their faith, the very principle of a Catholic parent’s right to choose a Catholic education is under threat.”



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